New Release: FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh

9780399171635FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh / YA / Released May 2017 by Penguin Random House

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

New Release: ONCE AND FOR ALL by Sarah Dessen

9780425290330ONCE AND FOR ALL by Sarah Dessen / YA / Released June 6, 2017 by Penguin Random House

From Sarah Dessen, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of SAINT ANYTHING and JUST LISTEN, comes a new novel set in the world of wedding planning!

Is it really better to have loved and lost?  Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically.  But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really  wants.  Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.
Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after.

Review: TRIPLE CROWN by Felix Francis

51sNDuu+HRLTRIPLE CROWN, by Felix Francis ((G.P. Putnam, 2016, $25.99) takes us back to Kentucky, where Jeff Hinkley, investigator for the British Horseracing Authority, has been called on to unearth a spy in the American horse-racing community. Someone is trying to influence the races that make up the prestigious Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes) by taking out the challengers to the horse most favored to win. Drugging is suspected, but every raid seems to be fore-stalled, and no evidence is ever found. When three of the prime contenders in the Kentucky Derby come down with the same rare disease, and are disqualified, Jeff goes undercover to find out who is trying to fix the races, and who is the mole in the Federal Anti-Corrution Sports Agency (FACSA). It’s a fascinating look at the underbelly of American horse-racing, as Jeff deals with horses, trainers, and jockeys, and learns just how far some people will go to attain their goals. A great ride, by a master.

Review provided by Roberta Rogow

Review: A MEMORY OF MUSKETS by Kathleen Ernst

51HTbdGAdsLThe past often impact on the present in Kathleen Ernst’s Choe Ellefson mysteries. A MEMORY OF MUSKETS (Midnight Ink, 2016,$14.99) has Chole embroiled in a battle over the part played by German immigrants in the Civil War. She’s all for highlighting the home front, but her boss wants a battle, even though there never was one in Wisconsin! At the same time, her fiance, Roelke McKenna, is having disturbing feelings about one of the buildings on the Old World Wisconsisn Museum’s property. A hidden diary flashes us back to the tumultuous 1860’s, and the tortured soul of a young German girl, promised to one man but in love with another. Both stories collide when one of the Civil War buffs who portray soldiers in the mock battle is found dead on the grounds of the museum. What’s worse, valuable antiques are missing from the museum’s back storage rooms, and someone is using the re-enactment as a venue for peddling fake photographs. Between them, Chole and Roelke sort out who is who, what is real, and how to leave the past in the past, and go forward into a brighter future. Photographs a the end of the book show some of the artifacts mentioned, and the author’s acknowledgments give more information about Civil War events.

Review provided by Roberta Rogow

Book Excerpt: RIVER CITY DEAD by Nancy G. West

River City Dead cover front. Final. Hi resRIVER CITY DEAD by Nancy G. West / Traditional / Cozy Mystery / Released 2017 by Henery Press

 Excerpt from Chapter One

            Not every city has a river running through it. And not many women plan a rendezvous at a San Antonio River Walk hotel during Fiesta Week after years of self-imposed celibacy. I was about to make history.

            Sam and I were meeting at Casa Prima Hotel. Hopefully our first days and nights together in River City would be more fiesta than fiasco. And we could avoid dealing with crime.

            To calm the jumping beans in my stomach, I decided to make a quick detour to Barnes and Noble and headed toward Loop 410. If SAPD called Sam away, I’d need something to read. He assured me they wouldn’t contact him, but sometimes they had to rely on an experienced homicide detective for a difficult case.

            Barnes and Noble was packed. After a lengthy search through half the store, I found aisles brimming with romance novels. I didn’t relish being caught scouring this area. In my Flash-News column, “Stay Young with Aggie,” I answered readers’ questions about everything from fitness to relationships. As an “expert,” I wasn’t supposed to need help.

            It wasn’t as though I was innocent. I became painfully experienced after Lester the Louse seduced me when I was barely eighteen, impregnated me and vanished like mist. But stories of other people’s romances might be enlightening.

            Slipping down an unoccupied aisle, I reached for a title that caught my eye, A Well-Spent Night. A bare-chested, muscled Scottish hunk wearing a plaid kilt bulged from the cover. I squinted at the title, which upon closer inspection actually read, A Well-Spent Knight. Worked either way. I flipped pages to the middle, found what I was looking for and started reading. There was a lot of heavy breathing and rippling biceps, but it never said why the guy wore a kilt or how he got it off. I’d wondered about that. Historical romance might not be the thing.

            Another cover caught my eye with the title The Long Hard Ride. A shirtless muscle-bound cowboy stood spread-legged front and center while a steer romped around behind him. I snatched the book off the shelf.

            From the corner of my eye, I saw a young sales girl eyeing me. Was my face flushing?

            “Can I help you?” About twenty-five with swinging hair and a pouty mouth, she looked sexy, bored, and all-knowing.

            I whipped the novel under the arm laden with my shoulder purse. “Imagine that. You even have westerns. So many choices.” I doused her with my superior bank-teller expression. “I doubt if any of these books are really that good.”           

            She smirked.

            Some urge compelled me to jabber. “I don’t think he could ride a steer dressed like that.”

            The new-fangled phone jangled in my purse. Digging to retrieve it, I dropped the books. The sales girl swiveled over and scooped them up. “I’ll keep these at the counter while you search for more.” She cocked a corner of her sulky mouth and walked away. I fumbled to flip open my Motorola StarTrac.

            “Where are you?” It was Sam, using his professional detective voice.

            “I just needed a few things. Have you seen the…our room?”

            “You need to get down here, Aggie. We have problems. I’ll meet you in the lobby.” He hung up.

Interview: Cozy mystery author Nancy G. West

Nancy G WestWhen Nancy was seven, she and her mother wrote poems to each other. The poetry was awful, but Nancy learned if you wrote something, people stopped to read it.
     In high school, Library Journal’s Pegasus published her poem. At eighteen–since journalists were underpaid and English grads sold lingerie–she slogged through General Business at UT-Austin, earning a BBA. Fortunately, one elective was Creative Writing.
     After graduation, Nancy read books on writing, wrote articles, poetry, the biography of artist Jose Vives-Atsara, and founded Book Publishers of Texas. 
     Returning to college to study English literature, she wrote Nine Days to Evil, a novel of psychological suspense, and the Book Shelf column for San Antonio Woman Magazine. NPR broadcast her poem, “Time to Lie”.
     Aggie Mundeen, a character from Nine Days to Evil, captivated Nancy and led her to create award-winning Aggie Mundeen mysteries. She is working on Aggie’s next escapade, convinced that writing is a lot more fun accounting.

River City Dead cover front. Final. Hi resTell us about your new release.  My heroine, Aggie Mundeen, a single columnist, moves from Chicago to Texas to shape up and start life over and falls in love with San Antonio Detective, Sam Vanderhoven. Eagerness and curiosity propel her to help with his investigations, creating humorous and dangerous results. In River City Dead, they plan a weekend getaway at a San Antonio hotel on the River Walk during Fiesta week—an escape from crime and reset for their dicey relationship. But murder has a way of interfering with the best laid plans. Sam and Aggie must improvise before she ends up dead in the river.

What led you to write this book?  By the end of Book 3, Smart, But Dead, Aggie and Sam reached a new level of understanding. Having survived volatile encounters with crime and a few self-evaluations, they need a calm, secure place to start over, an idyllic setting not too far from Sam’s work. It’s time for a rendezvous. What better setting than the beautiful San Antonio River Walk?

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?  I live in San Antonio, have spent many happy hours on the River Walk and attended many Fiesta Events. But I learned so much about my own city: why San Antonio is called Military City, how the city honors the military, their ranks, heroes’ resting places; how city groups convene for Fiesta and what it all means; how the city water system and river authority interconnect with the San Antonio River, and the fascinating story of the creation of the River Walk.

How important is setting to your story?  Aggie and Sam’s story takes precedent over everything, but the River Walk and hotel are integral to the plot and crucial to telling their story. One reviewer writes, “River City Dead is like taking a vacation while reading a mystery.” Another says, “I have visited the River Walk. I wish I had read this book first. Lots of interesting information along with the mystery.”

Which is more important characters or setting?  In my Aggie Mundeen mysteries, characters are always most important. The setting exists to highlight their personalities and foibles when they confront crime in a distinctive place.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?  Author Carolyn Hart writes, “Aggie’s pluck, humor, intelligence and loving heart will keep her young and make readers smile.” Author James W. Ziskin calls Aggie an “irrepressible heroine.” I plead guilty to having Aggie’s overwhelming curiosity, but I wish I had half her energy and bravery. The other traits, spread among many friends, coalesce in Aggie. I love Sam’s good judgment and reliability (probably based on my husband and father.) One reader wrote, “I identify with Aggie… the characters live and breathe….Shoot, if I was single and Aggie wasn’t in the picture, I’d go after Sam myself!”

Do you people watch for character inspiration?  All the time. Their body language and dialogue reveals so much about them. One could write a whole character sketch after listening to someone talk into their phone on a long-winded call.

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to meet  Movies come to mind. I love Goldie Hawn’s character in Private Benjamin and Sandra Bullock’s female FBI agent in Miss Congeniality. They try so hard, they mean well and they keep screwing up.

 SMART BUT DEAD cover frontWhat do you hope readers take away from your work?  A great sense of who Aggie Mundeen and Detective Sam are and a fervent hope for their relationship, fascination with their entertaining friends, genuine entertainment, and more than a few laughs.

What do you do when you are not writing?  Enjoy my family. Read. Daydream. Tile table tops. Sit and watch the river go by.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?  The Secret in the Old Clock. The Hidden Staircase. Nancy Drew, of course. She was curious, smart and independent, and her father had such trust in her.

Do you read the same genre you write?  I read mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction, biographies, political books, and other non-fiction if the topic intrigues me.

What is #1 on your bucket list?  More travel in the United States and enough time to write all the books I want to write.

 Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?  Aggie gets herself in some scary situations, but I’m averse to blood, guts and serial killers.

Do you have a favorite writing place or writing rituals?  I love to sit beside the Guadalupe River, daydream and write.

Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?  Trust. You can like somebody, even love them, but can you trust them? If you find you can’t, how do you adjust your thinking? After writing a biography, prequel suspense novel and four Aggie Mundeen mysteries, I became aware of this recurring theme.

What are you reading now?  I’m always behind. I just read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, David Baldacci’s The Black Widow. Next up, Nelson DeMille’s The Charm School. I try to read a book on the craft of fiction between novels. I have an occasional rash of realism and read non-fiction.

What social media do you participate in?

Website: http://nancygwest.com

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pg/authorNancyG.West/posts/?ref=page_internal

Twitter: @NancyGWest_

Pinterest/RIVER CITY DEAD: https://www.pinterest.com/nancyg0257/river-city-dead-aggie-mundeen-mystery-4-by-nancy-g/?lp=true

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancy-g-west-69186731/edit/topcard/

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

Do you see humor in people and situations like Aggie Mundeen does?

Yes. I can’t help it. I think it’s genetic.

 What’s next for you?  Another book about Aggie Mundeen and Detective Sam. I can’t give them up.

A look at Alt-Sherlock Holmes Stories by Roberta Rogow

Between the British television series “Sherlock” and the American series “Elementary”, there has been a spate of Alt-Sherlock Holmes novels and anthologies. Here are a few that have come up in the last few years:

51b4FPM4JiLBaker Street Irregulars, edited by Michael Ventrella and Jonathan Maberry (Wildside Press, 2017, $16.99) brings a variety of authors together to find new and unusual ways to approach the Sherlock Holmes character and his (and sometimes her!) world. Jody Lynn Nye and David Gerrold envision Holmes as a being from another planet; Keith deCandido and Helen McLaughlin have a female Holmes, Mike Strauss has Holmes as a contemporary television host, while Austin Farmer’s Holmes helps Beethoven find his baton for the first performance of his Ninth Symphony. The best and weirdest story has Holmes in a birdcage!  It’s a gathering of the weird, the wonderful and the wacky,  well worth the read!

51j0UEk3MDL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Three more Sf/Fantasy authors take on Sherlock Holmes in alt.sherlock.holmes (Abbadon Books, 2016, $9.99. Jamie Wyman has Homes (under the name Sanford “Crash” Haus) running a down-and-out carnival in Depression-era Indiana, with Watson as an African-American World War I veteran with both physical and mental wounds. Gini Koch’s Holmes is female, working in contemporary Los Angeles, where she and ex-soldier Watson find a murderer backstage at a television reality show. In Glen Mehn’s version, Holmes and Watson are gay lovers in the decadent New York City of the late 1960’s, finding conspiracies in the decadent cult surrounding Andy Warhol. Irine Adler pops up everywhere, and Homes is always Holmes, always in pursuit of justice. Not for the squeamish, but definitely fascinating.

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Also not for the squeamish is Robert Ryan’s series, Dr. Watson Thrillers, which finds Dr. John Watson back in the military in World War I. Dead Man’s Land ((Simon and Schuster, 2013, $15.00) finds Watson in the trenches, where he comes upon a body with injuries that could not have been inflicted by gunfire.

 

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In The Dead Can Wait (Simon and Schuster, 2014,$15.00), he’s back in England, where  stumbles upon a deadly secret in what is supposed to be a super-secure testing ground for a new weapon, one that will change the face of war for all time.

 

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In A Study in Murder (Simon and Schuster, 2015, $15.00), Watson is taken prisoner, and discovers a dark conspiracy in a German PoW camp.

 

51Dne8qNT9LThe Sign of Fear (Simon and Schuster, 2016, $16..00) gets Watson involved with a series of hideous mutilations and the disappearance of a ship carrying wounded men supposedly torpedoes in the English Channel en route to home. Sherlock, now retired and keeping bees in Susses, turns up, as does brother Mycroft, and there are exuberant cameos by Winston Churchill. Watch out for a particularly deadly German spy, a fiendishly clever assassin, and a few old friends from The Canon. The last novel ended on a cliffhanger (in more ways than one!), so we may expect to see at least one more adventure for Dr. Watson before his wartime duty ends.

Roberta Rogow is a retired librarian who enjoys books with characters that grab you, often set in exotic places or in other times.  She reads a lot of historical mysteries, but also enjoys Alternate History, and has been known to indulge in an orgy of“cozy crafty” mysteries, set in small-town America or villages in Great Britain.